White teachers must read one book, BIPOC teachers must read another
by Michael Bielawski
An Essex High whistleblower shared information that the school is pushing racially charged material on its staff as well as forcing segregated social justice-theme meetings based on race.
Forcing white staff to read “Learning and Teaching While White”
An email sent from the school to its staff states the following.
“The course aims to hold space for courageous introspection, learning, and youth,” the email says. The email written by the school principal Erin Cavoneil was shared with VDC by a whistleblower who chose to remain anonymous.
It continues, “Though engaging discussions, critical reflections, and collaborative activities, we will explore the complexities of racial identity, privilege, and the role of educators in fostering equity within our school community. ‘Learning and Teaching While White’ offers invaluable insights and perspectives that can help us better understand and address systematic inequities in our teaching practices.”
An excerpt from the book is available via ResearchGate.net.
“Racial equity will not come until white educators recognize their role in supporting racist policies and practices, and take responsibility for dismantling them. Learning and Teaching While White is an accessible guide to help white educators, leaders, students, and parents develop an explicit, skills-based antiracist practice,” it reads.
The text continues, “Through their own experiences working with school communities, and the strategies and tools they have developed, Jenna Chandler-Ward and Elizabeth Denevi share how white educators can gain greater consciousness of their own white racial identity; analyze the role of whiteness in their school systems; rethink pedagogical approaches and curricular topics; address the role of white parents in the pursuit of racial literacy and equity; and much more.”
Another portion of the email implies that staff are required to attend group meetings based on race.
“Furthermore, we are pleased to announce that our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) faculty and staff members will be engaging in a parallel reading experience focused on racial healing and resilience. The selected book for this group is, ‘My Grandmother’s Hands’ by Resmaa Menakem.”
It further states, “The course and parallel reading initiative aim to strengthen our collective understanding of racial equity and empower us to promote positive change within Essex High School.”
In another email also by Cavoneil, it is noted that these initiatives are “something the whole school will be participating in” and it’s not something that staff can choose not to sign up for.
On Monday morning the local school board and superintendent’s office as well as the Department of Education were all reached out to for comment and have not yet responded.
Essex High promoting Critical Race Theory?
The Essex High School has already been in the news for its social justice policies including its promotion of Critical Race Theory, a controversial concept that society is inherently racist and that therefore people must be treated differently based on race.
In a June 2021 report, WCAX wrote of the school’s then-in-development equity policy that “Some of the policies are informed by ‘critical race theory,’ which teaches that systemic racism and inequality are embedded in all aspects of American life.”
The article noted that there was pushback from some of the community.
“But critics argue the theory is divisive and teaches kids their country is inherently evil and that teaching it in schools amounts to activism in the classroom, which is what some community members have argued over the past several weeks,” the report states.
The policy was eventually adopted and it can be read here.
An excerpt reads, “This nation would not have evolved as it has without the genocide of the indigenous people, nor would the economic infrastructure exist as it does without the enslavement of native African people and their descendants. In an effort to recognize and undo the harm of centuries of systemic inequities and oppression, we begin with this lens and framework.”
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle
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